Care of working equines goes high-tech

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A staff member of The Donkey Sanctuary uses the new ‘Equid Assessment Research and Scoping’ (EARS) tool, in Nepal. © The Donkey Sanctuary
A staff member of The Donkey Sanctuary uses the new ‘Equid Assessment Research and Scoping’ (EARS) tool, in Nepal. © The Donkey Sanctuary

A new assessment tool to help charities better target their care for equines has been developed by international animal welfare charities The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare.

Launched by The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare, the “Equid Assessment Research and Scoping” (EARS) tool will provide a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons behind poor equine health globally and enabling them to measure the impact of interventions.

The EARS tool is built around a questionnaire designed to obtain individual information about an equid and its surrounding environment, or from a group of equids in similar conditions, through cumulative repetition. The tool uses scientifically validated questions employing consistent language, objective measures and thorough training.

Dr Joao Rodrigues, lead welfare assessment at The Donkey Sanctuary said the tool would enable staff to build specific protocols for specific situations, regardless of the location or function of a working equid.  “allowing us to collect evidence-based information in a very accurate way and guiding us in the decision-making process”.

World Horse Welfare international programme officer Emma Hales said the charity planned to use the EARS tool to support much of its work in the UK, Europe and internationally.

“Through this collaborative project we are now able to start collecting, and where appropriate sharing, welfare data of equids across the world.”

As the world’s largest equine charity, The Donkey Sanctuary aims to be a beacon of best practice for the 7000 donkeys and mules cared for at its 10 sanctuaries across the UK and Europe. Ongoing research helps inform state-of-the-art veterinary care, nutrition and the animal enrichment programmes, which enhance mental stimulation and physical exercise.

In order to help working equines in greatest need, field research informs strategic decisions on projects to deliver maximum impact. An estimated 112 million working donkeys, mules and horses are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and central/South America. The traditional beast of burden, their socio-economic value is often taken for granted, with people exploiting their hardworking traits and stoical natures.

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